Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

VeganMoFo 2015 bannerDay 17: Make (or eat!) a traditional local dish.

Maryland is one of those states that’s pretty synonymous with a specific dish — crabcakes. Or anything with crab, really. As a child, years and years before I moved to Maryland, I visited cousins who lived here and went out crabbing with them. Even then, I remember feeling unhappy with the practice and very uncomfortable with the whole boiling-and-eating-them thing.

Now, thinking about my participation in the catching and killing of perhaps dozens of crustaceans makes me feel sad and guilty. Tonight’s dinner — the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For — is my small way of offering up a little tribute to those crabs of my youth.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

With a tempeh base, these cakes are quite filling. I didn’t have a red bell pepper in the house, so I substituted a yellow pepper instead. I also made one other big substitution: using Old Bay instead of the spice blend in the recipe. You can’t make crabcakes without Old Bay!

I did have a little trouble with this recipe. The cakes didn’t hold together well at all; I ended up adding some aquafaba as a binder. They’re also pan-fried in oil, making them a little heavy for me. That side of sliced peppers certainly helped!

Here’s to you, crabs of Maryland, and here’s to eating tempeh instead of flesh!

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The Cat’s Out of the Bag[el] Now!

Look what I had for breakfast!

Labeled for easy identification.

Homemade bagels, straight outta Vegan Brunch. I made 6 plain bagels and 6 of the sundried tomato variety – I rehydrated a couple of sundried tomatoes, chopped ’em up, and added them to the dough before I letting it rise. I haven’t sampled a tomato one yet, but I’m optimistic.

These were super easy to make, although I found the dough a little dry, and it didn’t rise very much or seem very pliable – maybe I accidentally didn’t add enough water to my water + yeast mixture? I definitely didn’t add too much flour. As a result, the bagels are a little on the diminutive side – the one pictured here is probably the biggest of the bunch. But they still taste good, even if they are small and a bit lumpy. I put some organic blueberry preserves on half of this guy, and it was quite scrumptious.

If this looks like a light breakfast, you’re right – I wanted to leave a little room in my belly, because I’m going out for lunch with some vegans from work! I joined a vegan interest-type group earlier this week, and by some marvel of serendipity, they’d been planning a lunch meet-up at The Green Owl today. The Green Owl is Madison’s only fully vegetarian restaurant, and pretty much all of their menu is veganizable (if it’s not vegan already). And it’s all delicious. And they have an adorable owl motif throughout the restaurant! It’s almost too much awesomeness in one place.

Confession: There was mold in my blueberry preserves when I opened the jar this morning – guess I hadn’t eaten any in quite a while! But I performed some surgery and excised that shizz, and then proceeded to use the non-moldy preserves on my bagel. Is that gross? Unsafe? I got rid of all the mold and any jam that touched it, and I hate wasting food. What do you do when you encounter mold? Call it a day and throw your food away? Or do you clear off the offending bits and move on with your life?

P.S. Bonus points for anyone who can identify the quote in this post’s title! …and by “bonus points,” I mean I will think you are equally as silly as I am. :P

Scores o’ Scones

Do you ever set out to bake/make something, and you just know in your heart and/or tummy that it’s going to be delicious, but then when it’s done it’s actually even more delicious than you’d anticipated? I dooo! My latest better-than-anticipated treats were the scones from Vegan Brunch. Man, I don’t know what it is about these little guys that tickles my fancy so darn much, but I can’t get enough of ’em! Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t substitute a low-fat alternative for the shortening, or perhaps the almond milk I used added a little extra somethin’-somethin’, but these scones are seriously ace. I love the haphazard shapes that form from dropping dough on a cookie sheet:

An apple-cinnamon lovely.

In the interest of Using Up Things, I made two varieties. I chopped up a mealy Braeburn and threw it into the larger portion of the dough to create some really lovely apple-cinnamon scones, and then I used up the remainder of a bag of chocolate chips in the rest of the dough. Although I’m usually all about the chocolate, the apple-cinnamon variety really captured my heart. They are just perfect with a cup of tea, with their tender little crumbs and soft, moist innards. I think that, maybe, “traditional” (whatever that means) scones are meant to be triangular and a bit drier than these (like the orange glazed variety from VWAV), but I have a soft spot for moist baked goods (to the extent that I get giddy about desserts that border on the underbaked), so these are a delight to me.

I will say, though, that for someone who is used to eating lower-fat baked goods, the higher fat content in these scones leaves a noticeable strange coating in my mouth, and it’s not entirely pleasant. It was a bit surprising to me when I first noticed it, I must say. But it’s certainly not a dealbreaker, and if you’re used to full-fat baked goods, I doubt you’d even think twice about it.

I think I now have a new “impress the omnis!” teatime recipe. Hooray!

Lemon Poppy Seed Letdown

I love the Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Vegan Brunch. I may have only made them once before today, but that one time was enough – I was sold at the very first bite. These muffins wowed my family; my omni dad in particular raved about them for days. Although he’s nothing but supportive of my vegan ways, I know that he was slightly wary of vegan baking for a while. But these muffins totally destroyed that wariness. In fact, they pretty much crushed it into tiny crumbs of lemony, poppy seedy deliciousness. So when my friend and I made a Saturday morning tea date, I thought I’d whip out the ol’ recipe and make up another batch of these delightful nuggets of tastiness.

These came together without a hitch. In an amazing feat of preparedness, I set out my ingredients last night, so everything was at my fingertips this morning. The batter came together quickly and tasted divine. I even managed a quick shower while my muffins were baking. I thought nothing could go wrong, especially when I saw how wonderful my muffins looked after I removed them from the oven.

Looks can be deceiving.

But the best laid plans of mice and men… sometimes yield tough, slightly overcooked muffins. I was SO disappointed when I broke one of these guys in half and noticed that the crumbs weren’t as moist or tender as I’d remembered. A taste test revealed the sad truth – they were overdone.

Now, I know that it’s not exactly difficult to mess up muffins; either over-mixing the batter or overcooking the muffins can lead to unfortunate results. But I definitely did not over-mix this batch; I stirred until the wet and dry ingredients were just combined and then promptly removed my spoon from the batter. So the fatal error must have occurred in the oven. And that really grinds my gears, because I always set my timer for less than the recommended baking time. I know my oven, and I’d rather have undercooked than overcooked baked goods – you can always put ’em in for another minute, but you can’t take away baking time! For these puppies, I set the timer for 22 minutes. Isa recommends 23 – 27 minutes of baking time, and I assumed 22 would be the perfect time to check them and judge whether or not they needed another minute or two. I also remembered that the first batch I made could’ve used another minute, so I thought I was all set.

Obviously I wasn’t. When the timer sounded and I opened my oven, I was alarmed to see that the tops of my muffins had already browned. When my handy muffin-testing toothpick came out clean, I pulled that pan out of the oven quicker than you can say Isa Chandra. At that point I thought they were probably fine, but… I was wrong. Sigh.

In the grand scheme of failed baked goods, these muffins are really not that bad. The average taster probably wouldn’t even think to comment on their slight toughness; in fact, my friend and my brother said they were perfectly fine. But since my point of comparison was pretty much a perfect batch, I’m judging these guys rather harshly. They don’t have the lovely, moist crumb I remember so fondly, and the lemon flavor is a little lost beneath the toughness, but those really aren’t dealbreakers. It just bothers me that I couldn’t replicate my initial success. I think that next time I make them, I’ll use a 350˚ oven instead of the 375˚ recommended, just so I can better control the baking process.

In the meantime, I’ll just have to “suffer” my way through a batch of slightly overcooked Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins… ahh, the difficult life of a vegan baker!

Food Frenzy Friday

Get ready for some seriously good eats, folks! I’ve been a busy little vegan during the past 24 hours, and I have photographic evidence. But before the good must come the bad, alas. Thankfully, the only bad eats I’ve had lately were not made by me. Tonight my aunt I and went out to dinner so we could catch up and I could update her on some Important Life Events (more about those in the future). We decided to forego our standard favorite eateries for a new Thai place nearby; we felt adventurous and willing to give a new business a shot. Unfortunately, I wish we’d stuck to our tried and true restaurants, because this place was just not good. We ordered pad thai and a dish with steamed veggies and fried tofu, hoping to share the two between us. Well… we did share them. We shared the slimy, overcooked pad thai noodles and the flavorless steamed vegetables that probably came right out of the freezer. The only decent part of the meal was the peanut sauce, and even that was nothing to write home about. My aunt is much more assertive than I am and complained about the pad thai, so we didn’t end up paying for it (or eating it, for that matter.) Oh well – at least our conversation was satisfying.

Now we’ll move onto better – and tastier – things! My parents are away for a short vacation, so I’m enjoying having the run of the kitchen. Not that they don’t love it when I cook for them, but I kind of enjoy being able to blast my music while I’m cooking! Plus I can experiment with new recipes and not have to worry about anybody seeing my failure… not that I’ve failed lately. Yet. Anyway, when I filled out that Vegan’s 100 List last week, I was shocked to realize that I’ve never made vegan chocolate chip cookies. Although I’ve only been officially vegan since the beginning of this month, I’ve made exclusively vegan baked goods for almost a year now. So when I saw some dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips on sale at the grocery store, you know I had to snatch up a couple of bags. Last night I decided that I should make some cookies to accompany the new Office episode. I debated between using a chocolate chip cookie recipe I found on the PPK and the Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that has rave reviews on VegWeb. Ultimately I went with the VegWeb recipe. All those laudatory comments left me with pretty high expectations. So how did they turn out? Well… they look pretty!

Happy cookies?

And they taste pretty good, although I’m not sure these are my holy grail when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. I found the dough waaay too dry and ended up adding extra soy milk, so I’m a little skeptical of this recipe. At first I was not impressed at all, but after I ate a couple the taste began to grow on me, and today they taste even better. But I’m definitely going to try another recipe next time I get bitten by the chocolate chip cookie bug! What about you guys? Do you have a tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipe?

My next kitchen endeavor occurred this morning when I consulted the wonderful Vegan Brunch in search of a waffle recipe. I ultimately settled on the Chelsea Waffles, since I wanted a pretty neutral flavor that would pair well with my marinated apple topping (chopped apples + cinnamon + turbinado sugar + maple syrup). It turned out to be an excellent choice.

And in the mornin', I'm makin' WAFFLES!

Oh, yum. These were awesome! I didn’t have barley malt syrup, so I substituted a mix of brown rice syrup and blackstrap molasses. This worked really well, although I think it made the waffles sweeter than they should have been. Still utterly delicious, though. But what else should I have expected from this book?! Duhhh.

My final cooking experiment came from Vegan Dad. Although I’ve been a huge fan of his blog for ages now, I’ve never actually tried one of his recipes before today! But I’ve had a box of vital wheat gluten sitting in my pantry for about a month, and I decided it was time to tackle a seitan-based recipe. Now, I’ve only actually eaten seitan twice in my life before today. Both times it was from Whole Foods’ prepared foods bar (the two times I tried it were the only two times I’ve actually eaten there). But I enjoyed it, and since everyone and their mom seems to whip up seitan in their sleep, I knew I had to attempt it.

When I was omni, I was never a huge wings fan, but somehow the idea of vegan wingz really appeals to me. I’ve made the tempeh wingz from Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk twice; the first time I didn’t have panko and they were really kinda gross, but the second time I absolutely loved them. So I thought that trying out Vegan Dad’s Ultimate Vegan Hot Wingz would be an appropriate way to attempt seitan. And I was right.

Wingz, baby.

Although wingz aren’t the most photogenic food, I think these lil guys are sorta cute. I ate them with about 3/4 of a red pepper, not because they were spicy at all but because wingz feel like junk food to me, and in my mind I can counter eating junk food by eating straight-up, super-healthy, raw veggies. Whatever. In any case, the wingz were surprisingly yummy! I was a little nervous that they’d be too squishy; a few commenters apparently had that problem and I was concerned that I’d used too much onion and destroyed the delicate liquid/dry balance. But the dough stayed together perfectly well, and I loved the feel of it! Is that weird? I’ve always been a tactile kind of girl; I love polymer clay and Play Dough used to be one of my favorite “toys”. So I got a kick out of the strangely-textured seitan dough, I’m not gonna lie. And the end result was so good. I used the wing sauce recipe from Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk instead of Vegan Dad’s, since I really like that one, but other than that I didn’t stray from his recipe at all. And I’m glad I didn’t.

So, all in all, the past 24 hours have been an EPIC SUCCESS. And who knows what the weekend will bring! I’ve got the kitchen to myself for two more days… muahahaha.

Rhapsody in Blue: my love affair with blueberries

Happy Sunday, folks!

Guess what? It’s time to solve some math problems! Yep, you heard that right – Kelly the English major is breakin’ it down elementary school style for some word problems. So, in honor of my impending registration for the GRE (gag), I’d like to present a couple of math problems to you.

Question: If Kelly has 13 lbs. of handpicked local blueberries, how many bags does it take to hold them all?

Answer: 3 big ol’ bags!

Question: If Kelly has a boatload of blueberries and a copy of Vegan Brunch she won in a Twitter contest by the fabulous folks at Da Capo Cooking, what happens when she combines the two?

Answer: Bakery-Style Berry Muffins, of course! I like to make big, fluffy muffins to make ’em seem even more bakery-esque, and this recipe yields 10 good-sized muffins. My mom loves when I make these; she constantly compliments my baking in a blatant attempt to flatter me into making more. And honestly, I’m happy to oblige when the results are so yummy.

Question:If Kelly’s in the mood for something a little healthier than oil-rich muffins and and still has bundles of blueberries, what can she make?

Answer: What else but Susan‘s Blueberry-Oat Bars? I’ll admit, my version doesn’t look nearly as presentable or as scrumptious as Susan’s, but hey, I never claimed to be a fat-free kitchen goddess! And at least they tasted good, right? Next time I’ll be a better judge of my batter and distribute it more evenly between top and bottom.

Question: If Kelly’s getting a little tired of baked goods and is curious about exploring new flavor combinations, how can she use corn and blueberries together to create something delicious?

Answer: She can make the Cornbread Waffles from Vegan Brunch and top them off with a sweet blueberry sauce! I’ll admit that these waffles didn’t turn out as fabulous as I’d expected, but I think that’s because I used very coarse cornmeal. I froze the leftover waffles and LOVE popping one in the toaster and munching on it as a handheld brekkie snack.

Bonus question: If Kelly’s family is hungry for blueberry-laden baked goods and Kelly wants to mix up the flavor profile in her blueberry muffins, what can she use?

Answer: Orange juice! She can make delicious Blueberry Orange Muffins from Have Cake, Will Travel. Although I cheated and didn’t use fresh orange juice, these muffins were still quite tasty. I used a mix of white and whole wheat flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour called for in the recipe, and it worked out just fine.

And the easiest problem of all – if Kelly has 13 lbs. of handpicked local blueberries and just wants to have a delicious, simple, snack, what must she add to her blueberries to enjoy them? Answer – absolutely NOTHING. A bowl of fresh berries has got to be one of the greatest pleasures on earth.

I knew blue was my favorite color for a reason. Blueberries are the quintessential summer fruit for me. I love spending a couple of hours at the local U-pick farm with my mom and sister, feeling the hot sun on my arms and letting my mind wander as I scour the already picked-over bushes for hidden troves of berries. I love coming home with heavy bags bursting with the tiny blue orbs and going on a baking frenzy for a few days before calming down and freezing the unused berries in the hopes that they’ll last through the winter. In short, I love blueberries.

But, for the love of seitan, please don’t call blueberries “bloobs.” My mind works in strange ways and “bloobs” conjures up images the descriptions of which I will spare you. Just trust me on this one. ;)